Geo Week News

August 7, 2013

BIM Realities

My wife and I recently moved into a new house. Well, not brand new but recently built and new to us. The former owner left a 3” ring binder for us that was full of all of the information about the house she had received from the builder when taking possession of the property. Me being who I am, I started by scanning the entire house. Then, I made PDFs of everything in the binder. Then, I connected the two to make a BIM of my new home. Unnecessary? Maybe. Overkill? Absolutely, but it is great practice and I hate having to look all over trying to remember where I put something that I might need to access once every couple of years.

So, I now have a BIM and everything is great, right?! The funny thing is that this stage (BIM just created) is typically where we hand the data off to the client. Our job is done and all is well. However, in this case I am the building owner/maintenance man/security staff and it took all of about a week before I found myself looking for someone to blame due to my BIM failing to perform as advertised.

It all started with me patching the holes in the walls left by the pictures of the former owner. Next, I needed to touch up the paint to cover the spackling. I went to my trusty BIM and pulled the paint color “Macadamia” and found a gallon in the garage. I rolled a good part of the wall but didn’t cut it in since it was the same color. As it began to dry it became obvious that it was not the same color. Maybe the paint had aged poorly in the garage, or that wall had been painted another room’s color and the paint color chart that I had been given and used to supply the intelligence to my model, was wrong. I decided that I should verify the colors so I went to the paint supplier’s store and got the color sheets for every color in the house. As it turns out, we have three different light brown colors that are one number apart on the color wheel!

The paint pro and I decided it had been painted ”Basket Beige” not “Macadamia.” I returned home and repainted the walls “Basket Beige,” and guess what? It did not match either. I returned to get more “Basket Beige,” as I now had to repaint the entire wall and cut it in, and the paint pro asked what happened. I explained the situation and he said, “Well, if the original did not come from this store, it’s unlikely they would ever match perfectly. It’s not like all of the stores have their mixing machines perfectly calibrated to one another.”

Now, I think I see why BIM has not taken off as quickly as we all hoped it would. A Building Information Model is only as good as the information to which it refers; and 9 out of 10 times we are not collecting that information but simply linking to it. It leaves us putting in an awful lot of work and quite a bit of our reputations on the line while leaving the “accuracy” of the usable portion of the BIM out of our control. Without intimate knowledge of every discipline (such as the lack of calibration issue I discovered), we may never fully realize the full potential of a BIM. I wish I could close with a clever answer but this experience has left me thinking that true BIM success will require a full buy in from every stakeholder and if there is one thing the petrochemical world has taught me, it’s that every fiefdom has its own design.

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